What kind of guitarist do you want to be?

“Begin with the end in mind”.

Stephen Covey says that a lot in his best-seller, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘. As a matter of fact, it’s actually  “Habit #2”.

He’s referring to the simple, yet very important, concept of knowing what your goals are before you set out to achieve them.

Now that you have decided to start playing the guitar, the next step is to decide what kind of guitarist you are going to be. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients who simply start with the notion that they “want to play the guitar”. But what does that really mean? Most people think in terms of genre, meaning, what kind of music are they going to play. This is, indeed, a part of it. Do you have a music genre preference? Or many preferences?
Rock, Blues, Country, Funk, Reggae, Jazz, Classical, R & B, Bluegrass…
There are hundreds of musical styles & sub-genre (neoclassical funk metal Serbian marches music, anyone?). The point is, it goes deeper than that when it comes to what one does when they play any style of music on the guitar.

What I am talking about here is… what will it actually look like when you are playing guitar? What will you really be doing with your instrument?

Here are some of the many possibilities to consider when it comes to what you can do as a guitarist…

  • Acoustic guitar? Or Electric guitar? Or both?
  • Rhythm guitar? Or Lead guitar? Or both?
  • Do you want to learn songs by your favorite artists? Or, do you want to write your own songs?
  • Are you going to play by yourself in your room? Or, are you going to play with other musicians?
  • Do you want to accompany yourself while you sing?
  • What about playing solo guitar- unaccompanied versions of songs where you play the melody & chords together?
  • Are you going to jam with backing tracks?
  • Right hand technique- play with a pick? play with your fingers? or both?
  • Do you need to learn to bend strings if you’re just going to be playing jazz?
  • Is it just for a hobby? What if you get really proficient as a guitarist? Would you want to play at venues & make money with your art?

As you can see, there are many aspects that you might not have thought of, simply because you might be a beginner and you don’t even know
about such things yet. That’s okay. You will figure all this out as you go along. That’s part of the fun. This is an adventure & it’s always going to be more enjoyable if you allow yourself to enjoy the journey.
You can, of course, do all of these things. However, by refining your vision down to a few points, you will increase you likelihood of success.

One thing you can do now is to start paying attention to guitarists when you listen to & watch them. Notice what they are doing & how they do it. See if you can define what they are doing as an artist, a musician, a guitar player. This will help you to fine tune your own personal goals as you start to learn what is involved with being a guitarist. Your ability to listen & observe will get even more refined now that you are playing an instrument yourself.

I suggest you give everything I’ve mentioned here some thought. Journal about it. Write down ideas as they come to you & then re-visit them later & then write down some more. It is important to remember that this is a fluid process & you want to let it unfold naturally. Now that you’re on the path, you can refine as you go along. As you start practicing more & more, you’ll see that you will start to understand it all at a deeper & deeper level. Then you will realize that you might want to do more of this & less of that. You might decide to pursue a whole different agenda or style. Of course, you don’t want to constantly change your mind & direction every other day because then you’ll just lose focus.

So grab your guitar & start out on the path.

Do you know where you are going?

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